Oops -- there's a puddle of water next to your air conditioner. Should you be alarmed, or is some water normal? It's true that as part of the process of taking humidity out of the air, your air conditioner can collect some moisture, which condenses into water droplets. But a few drops of water are very different from a leak. If you have more than the occasional drop, whether inside or out, you could have a problem.
Main Causes of Leaks
Many issues can cause an A/C leak, but there are three that are common and that you may be able to tackle yourself:
- Damage to the overflow drain pan. The pan, which is usually located under the main unit, holds excess condensed moisture -- water -- until it can drain properly. But if the pan is cracked, water will leak from it. You can try to patch the hole with epoxy, but it's usually best to have your air conditioning repair professional order a new one for you.
- The air filter is clogged. Check your owner's manual to see how often you should be changing your filter; most manufacturers recommend a switch every month or two months when you're using the A/C a lot. Even if you don't change out the filter every single month, you should pull it out and check it. The reason a dirty filter can cause a leak is that the lack of proper air flow results in ice forming on the evaporator coils. You see what looks like a leak when that ice melts.
- The condensate line is blocked. This line drains the water in the overflow pan outside (although some homes have it positioned to empty into a drainpipe). If there's debris in the line, the water backs up and spills over the sides of the overflow pan. Newer systems may have a sensor that detects blockages in the condensate line and shuts down the entire system until the line is cleared. Check the line regularly for issues and use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any dirt, or have your air conditioning professional clear it if there is a problem.
When to Call a Professional
Other leaks can be signs of bigger problems. If you've checked the overflow pan, air filter and condensate line and spotted no issues, you may need to bring in a professional to inspect the system and identify the source of the leak. Some possibilities:
- Installation problem. The air conditioner wasn't installed level or it was slightly loose and has become slightly tilted. This can cause leaks and will require reinstallation of the main unit.
- Broken condenser pump. If the pump can't remove the excess moisture from the condenser pan, it may overflow.
- Loose air seals. If the seals on the unit are not tightened, warm air can enter the unit and condense.
If you have questions about your air conditioning unit, now is a good time to contact your air conditioning repair technician and schedule a complete checkup. Don't wait for the temperatures to get too warm before you have your unit serviced.